Max Froonjian & Jake Sconza propel River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Football Team to a comeback win over Bergenfield
The River Dell Golden Hawks varsity football team was looking to rebound from a brutal 34-6 loss to Parsippany Hills in the 2022 regular-season opener on September 1st.
Senior quarterback Jake Sconza on the aftermath of the defeat to Parsippany Hills, "Everyone was upset, and we knew that we would have to come back stronger." "Everyone thought that River Dell football was going downhill and after we heard that was our mindset." As soon as we heard that, people thought we wanted to go out and get a win right away.
"I knew the younger and inexperienced guys were going to be nervous because I was put in the same position last year and freaking out for a game." "Everyone's first varsity game and start is nerve-wracking and you don't know what's going to happen." You must run out there and play football. Many people don't realize the challenging situation and must go through it once and get all the first-time jitters out.
Nine days removed from the game against Parsippany Hills, River Dell faced off against Bergenfield at Bergenfield High School on a warm, sunny afternoon.
The Golden Hawks did not get an ideal start in the first quarter. The offense sputtered with a bunch of three and outs resulting in punts.
Bergenfield tallied the game's first points with less than seven minutes remaining. Quarterback Gabe Perez lobbed a 17-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Aidan Gallagher. However, the extra point kick attempt was no good.
Late in the first quarter, the River Dell defense provided a much-needed spark. On a booming punt from Max Froonjian into Bears territory, the ball glanced off a Bergenfield player with Golden Hawks Sean Kim in the perfect spot to recover the fumble.
The Golden Hawks' offense discovered some rhythm that advanced the ball into Bear's territory. However, penalties pushed the River Dell offense back, and a running play came up short on a fourth and five.
Bergenfield needed one play to electrify the home crowd and increase their advantage in the second quarter as Gabe Perez fired a pass to wide receiver Aidan Gallagher in stride down the middle of the field. Gallagher exhibited a ton of speed by outrunning the rest of the Golden Hawks' defense down the field's left side to the end zone for the score.
This time around, the Bears went for the two-point conversion attempt. Quarterback Gabe Perez threw a pass to the right side of the field, only for defensive backs Vin Doornheim and Phil Doornheim to combine to break up the key.
It was gut-check time for the Golden Hawks offense. Employing a mix of running and passing plays proved to be the perfect ingredient as the offense rapidly moved the ball to midfield.
On a third and 14 play, quarterback Jake Sconza took the snap in shotgun formation and scrambled out of the pocket and to his right. Sconza launched a bomb to Max Froonjian, who got behind the secondary, hauled in the catch, shook off a Bergenfield defensive back, and sprinted to the end zone with 8:05 left in the second quarter. Placekicker Alejandro Carballeda booted home the extra point to make it a 12-7 game.
Just when the momentum had shifted to the River Dell side, the Bears swopped it back instantaneously. Bergenfield running back Christian Valerio took a handoff from quarterback Gabe Perez and exploded straight through the middle of the line and on his way 63 yards to the end zone. The one glimmer of hope, the extra point attempt, was not promising, leaving the score at 18-7 with less than eight minutes to go in the second quarter.
With three and half minutes left in the first half, the Golden Hawks' defense flipped the script after yielding a trio of extended scoring plays. Linebacker Mason Nagle could gain the edge on a Bears offensive tackle and hit quarterback Gabe Perez as he released a pass. The ball ended up high in the air, and as it was coming down, Phil Doornheim swooped in for the pick.
River Dell took full advantage of the turnover. Quarterback Jake Sconza grabbed the snap again in shotgun formation, ducked, weaved out of traffic, and hurled an off-balance 32 yd. TD pass to Max Froonjian.
Max Froonjian on the second touchdown and connection with Jake Sconza, "Jake kept them alive the play scrambling out and then I decided to get vertical from there, and I outran the defense." "It took a long time." We have been working together for four years, best friends, and we talk about football daily.
Once the second half kicked off, the Golden Hawk's defense brought the intensity forcing Bergenfield to punt. River Dell started with an excellent field position at their 45-yard line.
The offensive line was doing a terrific job blocking that enabled Sconza to complete a bunch of passes and run the ball. Despite the good vibes, the Golden Hawks faced a fourth and two at the Bear's 17-yard line.
Lined up in shotgun formation, Sconza took the snap and zipped a pass to Max Froonjian in the left flat. Froonjian caught the ball and leaped into the end zone for the touchdown with 6:34 left. Alejandro Carballeda drilled the extra point through to make it 21-18.
"We worked on that play all week in practice, knew we were going to do that and they were going to man up on defense," Jake Sconza explained. "Ryan Rossig was in the split end and in motion and Max(Froonjian) ran a fade down the sideline and I put it out there in the middle and good for him to catch the ball and dive into the end zone."
After the River Dell defense forced a quick three and out, Max Froonjian continued to deliver highlight reel moments on special teams. Fielding a punt at the 44-yard line, Froonjian evades several Bergenfield players, turns the corner, and jet burners down the left sidelines for the touchdown.
"Everyone on the team(Bergenfield) was running at me and Phil(Doornheim) made a very smart block not blindsiding the kid and I was able to turn the corner and no one was there after that." "It felt really good after I made a couple of mistakes in the first quarter and bounce back and scored four touchdowns."
With less than four minutes remaining in the quarter, the Golden Hawks' offense was back in business at midfield. It just took one play to move deep inside the red zone. Quarterback Jake Sconza took the snap, rolling to his left and airing out a pass downfield as wide receiver RJ Weiss made a spectacular diving catch at the three-yard line.
"I saw the pressure coming from my left side to get out in because I knew the wide receiver was downfield and actually pointed because I saw RJ(Weiss) beating this guy over the top and I thought I overthrew him at first and right over the defenders head, but RJ made a phenomenal catch for a big gain," Jake Sconza described.
What appeared to be a walk-in score for the River Dell offense turned into a series of negative yardage plays. Forced to attempt a 32-yard field goal proved no issue for placekicker Alejandro Carballeda as he split the uprights, widening the margin to 30-18 with 40.9 secs left in the quarter.
The Bears refused to throw in the white towel as they scored with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter on a three-yard rushing score from quarterback Gabe Perez.
Golden Hawks Chris Kelm ran the ensuing kickoff back to the 37-yard line. Pounding the rock on the ground Jake Sconza and Andrew Spano churned out the necessary yards to run out the clock and seal a 30-25 victory.
Jake Sconza on the first win of the 2022 season, "It's awesome, we needed and everyone's always loud and we feed off that especially with the student section, faculty and administration and everyone come support us."
Next up for River Dell(1-1) is the annual "Bird Bowl" game against Westwood(2-0) on Friday, September 16th at Westwood High School, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. Last year the Golden Hawks defeated the Cardinals 31-20 at River Dell High School.
Max Froonjian on the upcoming match-up against Westwood, "They're a pretty good team, haven't let up a point this season but we trust our preparation and our players and ready to go play."
Jake Sconza on the game against Westwood, "I definitely think it's going to take a week of preparation, the same week as with Bergenfield and work hard every day." "Get into practice on time, watch film and do all the little things that can make you succeed on Friday night."